Autumn – to some, it’s a time to enjoy the good weather for the last time for about 4-6 months. To others, autumn means their life is consumed with football on Saturday’s, Sunday’s, Monday’s, and the occasional Thursday. To others, fall is the season that television shows come back on the air. To a couple hundred thousand, though, the most important thing about fall is the annual fall marathon.

Where I’m coming from…
The 2004 version of the Twin Cities Marathon was my second TCM and my third total. My first marathon, the Twin Cities last year, was a bit of a train wreck and I barely broke five hours with an official time of 4:59:53. After a good winter of training, I went into Grandma’s more prepared and subsequently ran a 3:57. After Grandma’s, I took it easy for a couple weeks and then started back training again for TCM (Twin Cities Marathon for those of you who haven’t put two and two together). I trained a lot harder for this than I ever have for either other marathon. For my first marathon, I think I may have topped out around 40 miles a week and I *know* I never ran more than 45 miles in a week. For Grandma’s, I haven’t done the math, but I’m pretty sure my average was around 45 miles a week and I topped out at 60 once. For Twin Cities, I did the Pete Pfitzinger 12-week program. If you throw out the three weeks of tapering, I averaged 64 miles per week with a peak week of 70 twice.

Pre-race day…
Work sucked Friday
Tapering sucked more

I started off Saturday morning with a nice four mile jog at a really relaxed pace. I stayed at my aunt’s house on Friday night and she has a nice ¾ mile path covered in woodchips about a half mile from her house, so that was nice to help save the legs. After that, I went with my sister, aunt and twin cousin’s to the Saturday family events. My cousin Alyssa ran the half mile and I ran it with her. She’s only five years old and still in preschool, yet somehow I snuck her into the 3rd and 4th grade race. Mostly because she’s an impatient five year old, but it’s not like it really mattered. She was really excited to get her race shirt and (gasp!) a finisher’s medal.
After the “race”, I headed down to the Xcel Center to hit up the race expo. I was really impressed with the expo this year. While I went last year on Friday and avoided the crowds, this year I couldn’t make it until Saturday. It didn’t really make any difference, though, other than Saturday was a little more crowded than Friday. I spent entirely too much money at the expo, although it would’ve been an acceptable amount if I didn’t drop $80 on some new shoes (New Balance 1023). They were $100 online and the cheapest I’d seen them in stores was $90. If I was rich and/or smart, I would’ve picked up about 5 pairs, but what can ya do? I also got a nice shirt that says “One More Mile” – it would’ve been cooler if it wasn’t a questionable purple color, but it was only ten bucks. I also got some running tights – one pair in red and one pair in white. Normally I stick with all black running tights, but I figured that’s kind of boring, so why not switch it up a bit. I think I’ve already established that there are maybe 3 single girls around my age that live in Perham, so it’s not like I have anyone to impress. I also got a chance to talk to Dick Beardsley at one of the booths for around 10 minutes. I just went up and told him I’ve run his half-marathon twice and thought it was a real classy event. We then got to talking about running. He ran the Air Force Marathon about two weeks ago, so I asked him how that went. He said it went well except he felt pretty terrible the first 17 miles. He’s a great guy and he’s so easy to talk to – if you ever get a chance to say hello, I highly recommend it.
Saturday night after the expo, we ran to Olive Garden to carbo load. I’d probably had four Gatorade’s and plenty of water all day, but I hadn’t been taking in a ton of carbs like I needed to be. Two big plates of all-you-can eat pasta and 8 breadsticks later, the lack of carbs problem was more than solved. After the meal, I went to my aunt’s house and laid all of my running stuff out making sure I had a chip, number, and everything else I’d need. I was feeling tired around 9:30, so I figured it’d be easy to fall asleep. Wrong! At 10:00, I threw in a Jerry Seinfeld standup dvd… and preceded to watch the whole hour and a half. I was starting to get nervous that I wasn’t going to be able to fall asleep. The only thing I could think about at that point was the clock saying 4:00 AM and still being awake. After the Seinfeld dvd, I threw in Return of the Jedi but turned the volume down so I could hear the beeps and whirring noises, but I couldn’t make out the dialogue. I still probably “watched” 45 minutes of that movie before falling asleep.

Race day…
Woke up at 5:30 and got all my stuff ready. Had a Gatorade and bowl of oatmeal. My dad gave me a ride to the Metrodome and then went back to pick up my mom, sister, aunt, and two cousins who were all coming to watch. My dad must’ve been spaced out as he was driving because before long he started getting mad because he was heading towards 35E instead of 35W. As we drove by 35W, I kinda thought to myself ‘Hmm… I thought that took you like two blocks from the Dome.’ He grew up down in the Cities, though, so I didn’t say anything. Once he figured out we were going the wrong way, he started apologizing, but I just said “Well, that’s why I like to go extra early.” I got to the dome a little before 7:00. I headed in and immediately got in line for the bathroom for a little “carbo unloading.” I walked around the dome a little bit to a) see if there was anyone I knew and b) to see if there was any good looking girls. I’ll pretend like if I saw one sitting by herself or something, I would’ve casually tried to small talk, but we all know I’ve got no game and I would’ve never said a word. Right around 7:00, I ate a Clif Bar as I always do 1 hour before a race (superstition). After a few minutes, I headed back into the line for the bathroom because I knew I’d have to go again. I ate some Sharkies which are some fruit snacks with a little more complex carbs and a little less sugar. They kind of taste “healthy,” but they have a boatload of carbs in ‘em, so they work. About 7:35, I headed outside to throw my sweat bag to be transported to the finish line and headed to the finish. I had run a qualifying time (under 1:45 half), so I was eligible for the first wave start for the first time. Last year, everyone was going crazy and climbing the fence to get into the coral, but this year they made it very clear that nobody was to climb the fence. I only saw one guy climb the fence. Security tried to pull him down. If it wasn’t marathon day and I was that guy, I would’ve let go and just made sure my head bumped the ground. Can you imagine the lawsuit you’d have if someone pulled you off a fence and you banged your head? Anyways, I don’t know if the guy got “disqualified” or whatever, but at that point I didn’t care. It was race time which meant it was time to show if all the work I’ve done over the last year and a half (and some change) meant anything.

Mile 1 -7:48 – Going into the race, my “if everything goes perfect” goal was 3:20, but I would’ve been happy with anything under 3:40. I planned on going out around 3:20 pace (about 7:38/mile and seeing how long I could hang, though). I always like to go out a little slower than goal pace, so I was pretty happy with this mile. I ran most of this mile with a really nice guy named Matt or Mike (I’m terrible with names) who was going to grad school at the U.

Mile 2 – 7:26 – Yikes… I was hoping to running between somewhere between 7:40 and 8:00 for the first three miles. This was a tad faster than I wanted to be. Normally I wouldn’t worry, but my shoulders were really tight and my body wasn’t really loosening up. It was right at the mile marker for 2 that I saw my family, two aunts, an uncle, and two cousins cheering me on.

Mile 3 – 7:47 – I purposely ran this one a bit conservative. The last thing I wanted to do was go out to hard because I’ve made that mistake before. I was really starting to get concerned, though, because my body wasn’t feeling right and, for whatever reason, I didn’t think I was in the mental state of mind to really push myself if I needed to. Oh yeah, I saw former Viking and current Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page outside his house playing tuba on this mile which was pretty cool.

Mile 4 – 7:29 – At least I was starting to settle into my pace around this mile. I still wasn’t feeling good, but I was pretty close to where I wanted to be as far as pace was concerned. This part of the race was around the Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun area which I’ve ran a few times, so it was nice being in familiar surroundings.

Mile 5 & 6 – 15:03 These two averaged out to around 7:31. I actually didn’t miss mile 5, but I must’ve not hit my split hard enough. I love the Twin Cities Marathon, but one (of two) complaints I have is that they have water stations right at the mile marker. I also popped my first Gel (raspberry Hammer Gel) and was hoping maybe the sugar would be what I needed to give my body a little boost.

Mile 7 & 8 – 15:11 – These two miles averaged out to be about 7:35. I completely spaced mile 7 until about 20 seconds after the green balloons marking the miles. I didn’t want to hit the split because I didn’t want an inaccurate split. I saw my family again at mile 7 around Lake Harriet. It always gives me a little boost seeing someone I know in the crowd, so it was nice. Body and mind were still in a questionable state, so I was actually getting a bit worried. Once again, though, the splits were fine, so all I could do was keeping pushing and see what I could do.

Mile 9 – 7:34 – Popped my second gel (apple cinnamon Hammer Gel) this mile. Not a whole lot was happening this mile. The crowd support was a little sparse, but that was already. I was planning when I wanted to throw on some tunes. I usually run marathons with my mp3 player, but don’t turn it on until I feel like I need a bit of a boost. At Grandma’s, I didn’t put the headphones on until mile 20. I was already planning to put them on this time at around 14. Scary…

Mile 10 – 7:27 – The weirdest thing happened on this mile. I was just going about my business as usual. When I’m not looking for someone in the crowd, I naturally look at the grown (for the most part) when I run. I knew my family was planning on being at mile 11, so I wasn’t really looking in the crowd. Then out of nowhere, someone yells “Go Brent!” I look over and it’s some guy I didn’t recognize. He says “I read your website.” How cool is that? I still don’t have a clue who it was? Jesse from Oshkosh is my best guest, but let me know whoever you are. And thanks a lot because for some reason that kind of gave me a bit of a boost for a bit.

Mile 11 – 7:27 – Saw my parents again. I don’t like this mile very much because I keep thinking I’m almost to the right hand turn we make during the next mile. I’ve run this course twice and driven it twice and not once have I figured this out.

Mile 12 – 7:36 – I actually kind of like this mile even though this is like the only part of the course we aren’t surrounded by trees. I saw a girl flash someone else in a running bra. Don’t know what the point of that was since you could look anywhere and see about 10 girls in running bra’s. There was one girl named Tracy wearing a running bra by me for about 10 miles. I knew her name was Tracy because I probably heard 500 people say “Go Tracy!”

Mile 13 – 7:33 – Almost to the magical halfway point and I still wasn’t feeling good. I still don’t know what the deal was. I popped a Clif Shot (strawberry) at the water stop on this mile. This is a fun mile because there are a ton of people and they are normally listening to music and all that jazz. Plus, I got to hear some hip hop which was a nice change from Eye of the Tiger by Survivor (from Rocky) and the Chariots of Fire theme music. When it comes to running, I’ve made a few changes I said I’d never do – the biggest being that I listen to slightly shorter running shorts. I can promise you that I will never listen to this music just because I want to. I honestly bet I’ve heard that stupid song from Rocky about 50 times in my three marathons. It’s almost as annoying as hearing the “you’re almost there” like two hours before you’re even planning on finishing.

Mile 14 – 7:44 – Went through the half around 1:39 which would be my second fastest half-marathon ever. My PR, set in August, is 1:34:34, so I’m not too far behind that pace. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not, but I would soon find out. I saw my dad once and my sister twice this mile, but apparently I flew by my mom and aunt without noticing. As soon as they were out of sight, I put on the headphones because I was still feeling pretty meh.

Mile 15 – 7:34 – You want to know the weird thing? Towards the end of this mile, I actually started feeling good! Before this point, I was half-waiting for the wheels to fall off and just kind of see what I’d need to do to finish. I was starting to look at my splits and realize that I was still under where I had wanted to be.

Mile 16 – 7:36 – West River Road is a really pretty part of the race. I just don’t understand why there isn’t anymore crowd support. I suppose there are only houses on one side of the street which automatically cuts spectators in half, but the next few miles are a few that I think would be easier with the extra crowd.

Mile 17 – 7:42 – Popped Clif Shot number four here (raspberry) The nicest thing about this mile is that there are finally less than a double digit number of miles to go. Once again, this is on West River Road and there wasn’t a whole lot of crowd. It was alright though because around this point is where I start to change from “just running” to focusing a little more on where I am versus where I wanted to be. Since my body was feeling the best earlier, I was half expecting to start slowing down the next few miles considerably.

Mile 18 – 7:47 – Well… slowing down five seconds is certainly nothing that I was about to worry about. It was weird because the other two marathons I’ve run, a lot of people have been walking and really slowing down by this point. I’m pretty sure the reason I didn’t see as much of that this year because I was running faster, but it was weird nonetheless.

Mile 19 – 7:55 – This mile was the last mile in Minneapolis. I was looking forward to getting to St. Paul because I knew it meant I was getting closer to the finish, but I also knew entering St. Paul meant entering the hardest part of the course (aka – the hills!) By this point in the race last year, I think I had already walked two or three times and as bad as I felt earlier, the thought hadn’t crossed my mind.

Mile 20 – 7:53 – Popped Clif Shot number 5 on this mile (Cola Buzzz… it’s awesome – tastes just like Coca Cola!) It was just completely strange, though. I hit the 20 mile mark which most people associate with “the wall” yet I was feeling as strong as I had at any point in the race. Mentally, it was a bit of a shock not to be slowing down at this point. At this point in Grandma’s, I ran a 9:33 mile which kind of tells you how much better off I was. I was also doing the math figuring that if I didn’t slow down at all, which I thought was highly unlikely, I could still go under 3:20. I think I predicted I’d run a 3:26 or 3:27 at this point if everything went well

Mile 21 – 7:56 – I was starting to hit the hills, yet I still was staying under an eight minute mile, so I was really pumped. I think I was starting to look better, too, because possibly every single person in the crowd told me “you’re looking good.” I don’t consider myself a particularly attractive individual, so either people in general have a different view of me or the crowd was so unoriginal at this point they told everyone that. I guess I can’t say for sure…

Mile 22 – 8:49 – Don’t let the split fool you; I didn’t just fall off the wagon this mile. This mile is the mile that gets most people if another mile hasn’t already gotten ‘em. It’s not the hugest hill ever, but it is pretty much uphill the whole mile. I knew I was going to be over eight minutes, but I ran the hills a little conservatively. This mile was the first mile that I really, really didn’t feel very good. During a marathon, I always have ups and downs – sometime within about 30 seconds or so. At this point in the marathon, though, if I have a bad mile, it usually means that every mile is going to be a bad mile.

Mile 23 – 9:09 – Popped the last Clif Shot (Cola Buzz again). Once again, wasn’t the greatest mile, but don’t let the split fool you. If the last mile is mostly uphill, this mile is completely uphill. Even Dick Beardsley said, in not so many words, that Summit Avenue doesn’t seem like it should be that tough, but at that point in the race it just sucks. As slow as I was running, people weren’t exactly flying by me or anything. I have a feeling most people were in a similar situation as me. It is mentally knowing you “only” have about 5k left because that’s a distance that doesn’t seem quite so insurmountable.

Mile 24 – 8:33 – This mile I think was a similar effort as the last two, but it wasn’t so much uphill. The nice thing about hitting the 24 mile mark is you are basically done with the hills. It’s funny how much quicker this part of the race goes when you aren’t walking at least ¾ of the time like I was last year. As much as I don’t overly love Summit Avenue, it does have great crowd support which is much appreciated.

Mile 25 – 8:53 – Was starting to cramp just a little bit in my right calf and my left hamstring. It wasn’t a constant cramp like at Grandma’s, but just a quick shooting pain every two or three minutes. I was worried, though, because it’s a short, painful cramp that would be more likely to send me crashing to the ground. I was excited to see my family again at this mile and I think they were surprised that I was still looking pretty decent. Even though I was hurting a little bit, I dodge over to the side of the road to give my little cousin’s high fives. In comparison to where I was now versus Grandma’s a little over three months ago, I ran an 11:41 mile at this point.

Mile 26 – 8:56 – This is where all those people can finally yell “you’re almost there” and I really don’t care. Another weird thing in this mile – I saw a girl (Erin) who is student teaching in Perham and also helping out managing with the cross country team. This was another case where she yelled “Brent! Go Perham!” and I turned and half-recognized her. I think when my brain put two-and-two together, I said something really intelligent… like “Hey” which probably sounded more like a grunt or something with the obligatory wave. Good looking out, dummy! I don’t think most people are going to hold something you say at mile 26 against you, though.

Last .2 – 1:40 – There is a New Found Glory song that’s titled “All Downhill from Here.” By this point, you can see the finish, so I just leaned forward and gave it everything I got. One guy passed me about 200 meters from the finish and I said the normal “good job.” He said “Come on… let’s finish strong,” so I tried to push it pretty good. With about 50 meters left, I tried to really kick it down and my left calf just absolutely seized. I can’t wait to see the pictures from the finish because I’m pretty sure you can see me almost fall down. I felt okay before I tried to kick it, but apparently I just didn’t have another gear in me at that point.

Finish time and a new PR by 30 minutes and 36 seconds – 3:26:41

I felt just golden! Within five minutes, any ache and pain I had was gone. I got the medal, got the aluminum foil-y thing (what is that even called!?!), the t-shirt, a little food, and then met up with my family. They were just shocked that I’d run as fast as I did. I wasn’t shocked, but I definitely was pleasantly pleased. I went and picked up a polo shirt so that I can wear it to work tomorrow and headed home. To emphasize how pain-free I was feeling, I gave my five year old cousin a “ride” on my shoulders for about a half mile while we walked to the car.
I don’t know if he still reads this, but I’d like to say a big sorry to the former Perham cross country coach Brad Hickerson. Not only should I have went out for cross country when he asked me in to go out in 12th grade, I should’ve already been in it since at least 9th grade. I think this race kind of solidifies my opinion of myself which is that I’m starting to turn into a pretty decent runner. So, what’s next? I was thinking of doing a winter marathon, but I’m not sure. I need a 3:11 to qualify for Boston and I think if I work hard and be patient, I will have a good shot at making that next year. As of right now, I’m planning on running the 1st annual Fargo Marathon in early May and then Grandma’s again in June. I’d like to hit a few 5k’s, 10k’s and half-marathons later this fall and this winter, but for now I’m going to go hit the swimming pool to start swimming laps for the first time in my life starting tomorrow before work. I didn’t take enough time off after my last marathon. I’m not even going to jog until Wednesday (not counting all the running around I’ll do at the cross country meet on Tuesday), so I’m all about healing my body and getting back in the swing of things as soon as my body tells me it’s ready. Thanks all for the support, and if you’ve made it this far, I hope you were at least somewhat interested in what I have to say.

If you’re out on your bike tonight, do wear white,